Issue 253 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published June 2001 Copyright © Socialist Review
The Trial of Henry Kissinger
At first I had mixed feelings about this book, partly because I didn't need convincing that Henry Kissinger is one of the most loathsome individuals alive today, and also because I found it difficult to understand how Christopher Hitchens writing 'Why I hate Kissinger' could help things. There was also, I feared, a danger of giving the 'doctor' too much status. Attaching too much importance to this one man, I reasoned, could lead to 'manufacturing differences' between the old order and the new when, in truth, very little has changed in US foreign policy.
It didn't take me long to realise I was wrong. This is not, in the main, a moral interpretation of Henry Kissinger's actions in office. Hitchens has concentrated on legal issues in this highly detailed study, which he hopes will one day become the case for Kissinger's prosecution.
Often letting the declassified documents and published memoirs tell the story, Hitchens winds his way through the maze of propaganda, half truths and evasions that surround Henry Kissinger. He exposes his dual image--one minute a confident, powerful, all knowing politician, the next an ignorant, uninformed and overworked official, depending on which persona served him best. By quoting mainly the official record, the author manages to destroy Kissinger's pleas of ignorance when accused of complicity in, or direct responsibility for, crimes all over the world.
Perhaps Henry Kissinger's greatest crime was the undermining of the peace talks in Vietnam, which led to the collapse of the Democrats' election campaign in 1968. The war continued for another four years with Nixon and Kissinger in charge, widening to include Laos and Cambodia. Hitchens calls this 'the single wickedest act in the history of the republic'. Despite his obvious anger, the author does not attempt to make this a central part of his legal case. He believes that Kissinger will more likely face trial for crimes against individuals, for which the laws are more clearly defined.
He documents the case of General René Schneider, who was the moderate Chilean head of staff at the time Salvador Allende was about to be inaugurated in 1970. Henry Kissinger made $50,000 available in Chile to anyone willing to assassinate him, and smuggled guns in through the embassy. Schneider was opposed to any military meddling in politics at a time when the CIA was planning a coup in the country. Nixon and Kissinger decided that he had to go, and Schneider was killed in a so called 'failed kidnap attempt'.
Even after discarding the 'institutional policy' of the US during the Cold War, Hitchens still finds a lot to blame on Henry Kissinger personally. One of the astounding things about him was the way he would often ignore the consensus around the table. For example, when Kissinger was warned by senior CIA officials that the plan to eliminate Schneider would backfire he ignored their protests and continued as planned. Henry Kissinger was but never just a cog in an all powerful machine.
Kissinger is now paid thousands for television punditry, after-dinner speaking and corporate bridge-building for greedy western expansionists. As Pinochet stands humiliated before the Chilean courts, Hitchens writes that Kissinger's 'own lonely impunity is rank... If it is allowed to persist then we shall shamefully vindicate the ancient philosopher Anacharsis, who maintained that laws were like cobwebs, strong enough to detain only the weak, and too weak to hold the strong.' Hitchens wants the NGOs, civil rights lawyers and activists to take a stand. It will not be easy. A man who can be given the Nobel peace prize for dropping the equivalent of five Hiroshimas on a devastated population must have quite a talent for getting his own way. But Kissinger must face trial, and Hitchens' book is the first step--a comprehensive catalogue of his crimes and lies. The crucial next step as always, requires action.
Moralities: Sex, Money and Power in the 21st Century
Pinochet and the Chilean coup, Clause 28, Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, Labour's treatment of asylum seekers, the Seattle protest...the list of topics that Joan Smith brings together in this new book is at first glance startling. But you are quickly drawn in to this hugely readable polemic. Smith's argument is that the latter half of the 20th century saw the decline of an 'old' morality-concerned with policing the private lives and sexual behaviour of the mass of people through religion and legislation. She goes on to argue that a new morality, which is 'democratic and international', is taking the place of the old. This is moved more by what Smith rightly sees as the central issues in society--money and power.
The explosion of political awareness and activity epitomised by the anti-capitalist mood is for Smith an inspiring and important example of ordinary people trying to impose this 'new' morality on the global ruling class: 'If the 20th century came to be characterised as the struggle between freedom and tyranny...the new century is already shaping up for a different kind of confrontation: unfettered capitalism versus universal human rights.' How this imposition of new values is to come about, however, is never quite explained.
She rallies her evidence in three sections. In 'The Sins of the Fathers' she looks first at the role of the US in the overthrow of Allende in Chile, an event which was a formative moment in Smith's own politicisation. She then examines Bill Clinton's long career as a sexual harasser and the fact that many leading feminists defended his behaviour. She discloses that before the presidential election Hillary Clinton organised a private investigator to track down 19 women whom 'she regarded as a potential threat to her husband's electoral prospects' to get affidavits from them 'denying any sexual or romantic involvement' with Clinton! The investigator was successful with six, and was paid $100,000 out of federally assisted campaign funds for his trouble. The final part of this section looks at the cosy relationship the British ruling class had with Saddam Hussein before he was deemed enemy number one.
'The Policing of Private Life' looks at the changes in the role of women in society, the nuclear family and sexuality. Smith spells out the sheer brutality of women's oppression and homophobia in the past, and what it means today. The final section, 'The Peasants' Revolt', brings the debate up to date with a look at political movements since 1968, Seattle, war, nationalism, and the politics of today's activists.
Smith has brought together these accounts under the big theme of morality, and this is the Achilles' heel of the book. Morality is not what causes oppression, war and dictatorship--the pursuit of profit, imperialism and class division are the roots. Ideology about society flows from the material structures that shape that society, not the other way round. As a result of her analysis Smith finds herself siding with the very governments she has so successfully exposed in earlier chapters, over the issue of international humanitarian intervention. Smith accepts their claim that Nato intervention in the Balkans was for humanitarian reasons. She writes that 'the campaign demonstrates both a new determination on the part of western governments, particularly the UK and the US, to intervene on humanitarian grounds in parts of the world where their national interests are not directly involved'.
The fact that the western governments did indeed have very strong national interests in keeping control of the region is even more in the open today than at the time anti-war activists first raised this question. She is, however, critical of their methods, which she rightly points out were more concerned with protecting US personnel and military hardware than saving civilian lives. But this leads her to conclude that the west should intervene more often around the world on humanitarian grounds, but in future be prepared to send in ground troops and suffer casualties in order to do so more effectively. The idea that the same governments she so criticises for bombing Iraq should be encouraged to bomb elsewhere exposes the fundamental contradiction in her argument.
Despite its flaws, Moralities is both stimulating and well written. Smith is excellent at exposing the horrors that modern capitalism inflicts on the mass of people all over the world, and her book will open up debate about how best to combat them.
IBM and the Holocaust
Little Brown £12.99
One of the enduring images of the Holocaust is the identification number tattooed on the arms of death camp victims. Yet behind those five or six digit numbers lies an untold secret of the Holocaust--the complicity between the world's greatest information technology corporation and Hitler's Third Reich.
The numbering system was not a 'head count' but a system of identification in the true sense. Each number corresponded to a set of information that detailed the prisoner's nationality, race, date of birth, residence, place of arrest, sexual orientation, political or religious affiliation, profession or trade, destination and 'reason for departure'. This information was stored on millions of punch cards that were rigorously updated. A whole array of sophisticated and expensive machines enabled this information to be sorted, tabulated and analysed at great speed. The massive logistics of the entire camp system were managed by means of this technology--train schedules, slave labour requirements, mass deportations, transfers, extermination timetables...all while the Nazis waged war on two fronts.
The international monopoly on this information technology lay in the hands of one company, IBM--International Business Machines. Prior to the war Hitler's Germany had become the centre of IBM's European operations. The drive to war and the rapid extension of state control into every area of life led to a huge demand for statistical information. Nazi statisticians, raceologists and population experts became leading figures in their own right, taking high positions in the Nazi Party, government ministries and the military. They became key architects of the Final Solution.
The industrialised genocide of millions required a vast deployment of resources. The tools of the Nazi bureaucrat and statistician became the IBM punch card and IBM's leased Hollerith machines. Thousands of sorters and calculators spread across occupied Europe. Each machine was designed to be task specific. They were sited in state and party offices, in industrial enterprises and military headquarters. Traffic through every key railway junction was monitored through an IBM Hollerith.
Almost every concentration camp had its own Hollerith department, its own on-site branch of IBM. So central was IBM's German subsidiary, Dehomag, to the Final Solution, that Hitler's representative on its board was no less than Edmund Veesenmayer, who planned the round-up of Slovakia's and Serbia's Jews, and the mass deportation of 450,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz.
Edwin Black, the author of this book, is an investigative journalist specialising in corporate misconduct, an expert on commercial relations in the Third Reich, and the son of Polish survivors. This is a meticulously researched book that is causing tremors in the corridors of what is still one of the world's greatest corporations.
The book's specificity, its rigorous detail and its investigative method may place it beyond those whose interest lies in a more general reading on the Holocaust or the relationship between the Nazis and big business. But the book is likely to have an impact quite disproportionate to its actual readership. A documentary based on its evidence has already received major airtime in the US.
Nor does the book's value rest simply as an indictment. Although it is not the author's purpose, what he uncovers raises vital questions on the role of global capital, war, and the relationship between huge corporations and the state. Today those who seek to justify the role of the global corporation claim that free trade can only bring peace, democracy and economic advance. IBM's rise to dominance marked the onset of the 'information age'. Far from bringing peace and prosperity, its technology and expertise were marshalled in pursuit of war and genocide. The motto of IBM president Thomas Watson was 'world peace through world trade'. Watson was the proud recipient of the highest Nazi medal ever conferred by Hitler on a non-German.
The Captive Party
Michael Barratt Brown
'The most business-friendly environment in the world' is what Tony Blair set out to create when he came to power. In The Captive Party Michael Barratt Brown spells out exactly what this has meant over the last four years.
The main focuses of the book are privatisation, corruption, and the growing links between the Labour Party and big business. Barratt Brown gives some brilliant examples. Not only can business leaders influence ministers and policy, they are increasingly entering government itself. The House of Lords now includes people such as Lord Paul of Caparo Industries, Lord Haskins of Northern Foods, and of course Lord Bragg--all Labour donors. Business has been co-opted into the party in other ways, such as in quangos or as special advisers. Some 320 taskforces have been created since New Labour came to office, of which in 1999 a mere 2 percent came from trade unions compared with 90 percent from business leaders.
The level of corruption this entails is brilliantly exposed by looking at New Labour's various PFI projects. Under Blair universities have been opened up massively to the market, with the introduction of fees and scrapping of student grants, making them highly attractive for making profits. Cambridge University offers professorships sponsored by large multinationals, for example, the Shell chair in chemical engineering, BP professorships in organic chemistry and petroleum science, or the Marks & Spencer chair of farm animal health and food science!
The massive cost of privatisation is unbelievable. Barratt Brown gives the example of the Channel Tunnel rail link, which if publicly funded would have cost £1 billion. The private consortium that built it initially received £5.7 billion, and later asked for another £1.2 billion and a £3.7 billion loan.
Along with George Monbiot's The Captive State, Barratt Brown provides good ammunition for socialists in exposing the corruption at the heart of New Labour. However, the conclusions reached are rather vague. At the beginning Barratt Brown talks about the need 'to create a new party of labour'. It is fantastically inspiring to hear him describing the kind of society we could be living in--renationalisation of transport, all PFI to be halted, free education at all ages, an end to discrimination. But he does not give any way forward on how to get to this society he describes. As he points out, discontent with Labour will grow but 'we cannot expect to see a political change until there is a clear alternative for people to embrace'. Well, now there is--join the Socialist Alliance.
The Crash that Stopped Britain
Ian Jack gives a moving and angry record of the causes and culprits behind the Hatfield crash. He achieves a lot in a small book. He makes the specialised accessible by describing the technical detail with a warm affection that fascinates. He shows the history of travelling by rail dating back to 2245 BC in the Babylonian Empire, through to the Greek and Roman civilisations, to the present day. The introduction of the rail made of steel becomes an adventure, and the beauty of the engineering is respected as much by those who created it as by those who maintained it, who viewed rail as a 'living thing' to be cared for and looked after.
Against this almost idyllic setting, Jack contrasts the running down of standards, the reduction of the workforce and the passing of the Railways Act under the Tories in 1992 which introduced privatisation. And he quotes an interesting prediction by Tony Blair in 1995 saying, 'As the public learn more about the chaos and cost, their anger at this folly will grow.'
The book tells of the shift in priorities with privatisation--one problem, it seems, was that maintaining a safe railway involved engineering and maintenance work, and this interrupted the running of the trains. So the privateers got rid of the workers who were getting in the way of their trains (the rail workforce fell from 159,000 to 92,000 in the first five years of privatisation), giving us an operators' rather than an engineers' railway.
The two years running up to Hatfield are chillingly illustrated. The company responsible for track replacement was Jarvis. Track maintenance and repair were courtesy of Railtrack. When the Hatfield line fault was discovered back in 1999 nothing was done. In February 2000 the two competing companies embarked on an argumentative bidding process leading to the track repair being repeatedly postponed. An ultrasonic scan revealed the scale of damage to the rail and should have led to an immediate imposition of a 20 miles per hour speed limit. Instead the trains continued to haul thousands of tons at high speed across the fractured track, ultimately costing the lives of four people and igniting a fury against the bosses responsible, and causing the months of ensuing chaos in Britain's transport infrastructure.
Ian Jack is clear about the cause of the crash and where the blame lies. By writing about specific catastrophes of privatisation, it can appear these are a series of mistakes, mishandling and greed, leaving people potentially disarmed. But Jack also starts to make the links between what is happening on the rails and the wider global agenda. He quotes a senior figure from the Strategic Rail Authority who describes visitors from abroad coming to visit the SRAs: 'The ones from Europe come because they want to discover how not to privatise a railway. The ones from the Third World come to see how it might be done because the IMF has sent them. Poor mugs.'
The book reminds you why the anger against privatisation runs so deep. It also underlines the urgency of raising the level of understanding of how the ruling class is accelerating a neoliberal agenda across the world. The value of this book is that it contributes to informing the debate about how we most effectively take the fight forward against a global selloff.
The Iron Wall
Avi Schlaim, one of the tiny group of Israeli radical 'new' historians, has solved a huge mystery that has always puzzled critics of Zionism. Why, historically, have the apparently more 'liberal' and 'moderate' Zionists always succumbed to Zionism's fanatical hardcore when it comes to dealing with the Palestinians? The answer is summed in the title of this book--The Iron Wall.
This is the name of the political philosophy pioneered by Jabotinsky, the leader of revisionist authoritarian Zionism (regularly called fascist by his liberal Zionist opponents), in the 1920s. Schlaim argues that Jabotinsky recognised a simple yet unpalatable truth at a very early stage--namely that Jewish nationalism and Palestinian nationalism were incompatible. The Arab inhabitants of Palestine would never accept a Jewish state on their land. It was useless and naive to pretend otherwise. The only solution was to erect an immensely powerful military Zionist 'iron wall' which would break the will of Palestinian nationalism. This was also to be understood as an entirely justified colonial occupation. Jabotinsky was a firm believer in the cultural superiority of Western civilisation. He emphasised the European roots of the Jewish settlers in Palestine. He argued, 'We Jews have nothing in common with what is denoted "the East".'
Schlaim's book is a brilliant and exhaustive history describing how nearly all of the Zionist leaders, especially the Labour leaders who sometimes called themselves 'socialist' like Ben Gurion and Rabin, have, consciously or not, adopted Jabotinsky's 'iron wall' approach in their confrontations with the Arab world.
This book, then, is essential reading for the new generation of activists currently being radicalised by the second Palestinian intifada and Israel's murderous response to it. There are, however, two major weaknesses which also need to be understood. Firstly, Schlaim skates over US support for the 'iron wall'. It is recognised but not explained. Secondly, his argument stalls when it comes to Rabin and the Oslo peace accords. He cannot make up his mind whether Rabin is just another villain in the 'iron wall' mould or a genuine peacemaker. On the one hand, we read that 'Rabin was influenced by Jabotinsky...the iron wall of Jewish military power had achieved its purpose'. Palestinian nationalism had been broken. Indeed, Rabin cynically wanted to prop up a collapsed PLO as a counter to the Islamic group Hamas. In any case, Israel simply wanted 'to repackage rather than end Israel's military occupation'. Yet in the last chapter we learn that, on the contrary, Rabin was making a 'serious attempt to transcend the iron wall', and that his famous White House handshake with PLO leader Arafat was based on a 'mutual recognition of each other's right to self determination'--something expressly ruled out by the iron wall.
Schlaim quickly realised, however, that Oslo was a fraud. He was particularly incensed by the way Jewish settlements continued to be built on Palestinian land, and in his book argues that the 'Oslo process worsened the situation...and confounded Palestinian aspirations for a state of their own'.
Avi Schlaim and his family joined the recent Campaign for Palestinian Rights demonstration in London. He doesn't agree with all of the campaign's aims, but he wanted to identify with the Palestinian struggle. His presence was very welcome and, like the arguments his book provokes, will help strengthen the growing solidarity movement with Palestine.
The World is Not For Sale
José Bové and François Dufour interviewed by Gilles Luneau
'There are two different views of society. One [is] where the market, with its own rules, runs everything and where all human activity takes place with capital as the bottom line. The other [is] where people and their political institutions are at the forefront of society's concerns.' That's how José Bové sums up the alternatives facing the world today.
Bové has become one of the most visible symbols of the anti-globalisation movement. He shot to prominence when he and other farmers dismantled a McDonald's in the French town of Millau in 1999. Bové has since joined many of the great anti-globalisation protests, from Seattle in 1999 to Quebec just a few weeks ago. When his own McDonald's case came to trial in Millau in the summer of 2000 it provoked a vast mobilisation, with up to 100,000 people joining a protest-cum-forum-cum-festival in the town.
This book consists of a series of interviews with Bové and François Dufour, a fellow leader of the Confederation Paysanne, a radical small farmers' organisation in France.
It is refreshing to read informed argument by people who are both left wing and who, as working farmers, know what they are talking about.
They explain how policies like the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy work and have shaped a particular way of farming, one dominated by the demands of big business. They also show that while the drive to increase agricultural production in Europe has succeeded up to a point, it has done so at a heavy price, and in a way that is increasingly undermining itself and the wider environment. The book also contains convincing discussions of GM crops and the role of scientists in relation to society and big business.
The authors ground their arguments in a discussion of the wider movement against globalisation, and discuss the significance of the protests in Seattle, Millau and elsewhere. In doing all this the authors raise some of their own particular arguments. Bové for instance, makes clear that he draws on the tradition of the 19th century anarchist Bakunin as an 'alternative to Marxism'. He also draws from the 'self management' movement centred around struggles in France in the late 1960s and 1970s.
Bové, however, simply does not discuss the obvious problem with these examples, that they ended in failure, as have similar attempts at producers' or workers' cooperatives in Britain. Cooperatives of small scale producers can at best win a small niche within capitalist markets. More likely they will end by being squeezed out of existence by competition from large scale production and giant multinationals.
Bové also echoes an argument that has been advanced by people like Naomi Klein. He rejects 'revolution' and insists that a lesson of the anti-globalisation movement is that 'today people mobilise without wanting to take over state institutions and maybe this is a new way of conducting politics.' But this rejection of an aim of dismantling the existing institutions of the state can in practice lead Bové to adopt stances which reinforce some of these bodies. So in the book, as at the Millau protest last year, Bové enthusiastically embraces the slogan of Liberty, Equality Fraternity. That sounds harmless enough--except it happens to be the official slogan of the French state. Whatever Bové's intentions, this is at best confusing and can at worst lend support and legitimacy to the 'French' state.
I can vouch that for many at the Millau protest Bové's embrace and chanting of the slogan reinforced a nationalist sentiment, a defence of 'French' values and the 'French republic'-a stance which Bové himself certainly rejects.
But despite these and other disagreements I have with some of Bové's arguments, anyone who wants to have a rounded grasp of the issues and debates within the anti-globalisation movement needs to read this book.
Tom Seymoure is a child psychiatrist in contemporary Newcastle whose marriage to Lauren is disintegrating. While out for a walk they witness an attempted suicide, as a young man takes pills and throws himself into the river. Tom jumps in, rescues him, and it soon becomes apparent that it is not a stranger. It is Danny Miller, notorious for being convicted of murdering an old woman 12 years ago when he was only ten.
At his trial Tom had given an assessment to the court of Danny's mental state, the outcome of which has haunted Danny through his development to adulthood in various institutions. Now that they have met again they embark on a series of psychiatric meetings, leading to an exploration of what happened to Danny and the people around him.
In a sense this is a whodunnit. Was it coincidence that Danny jumped where he did? Did he in fact kill the old lady? What does he want from the sessions? But there are many other ideas woven into the story. The book moves around in the grey areas between bureaucracy and people's lives. The assessments and academic judgements of professional bodies battle it out against what the characters live with. There aren't many certainties, which makes for good tension in the writing and lots to think about.
This is some of Tom's original interview with Danny:
This is not a justification for murder. Danny's father was a soldier in the Falklands and was brutalised by it, and managed to convey some of that to Danny. It is one of Pat Barker's greatest skills to be able to see a diverse range of interacting factors in people's lives, from the distant forces of the state to the most personal relationships, and connect their values through the eyes of the characters.
For those familiar with Pat Barker's work it will come as no surprise that this is a brilliantly written, tightly structured, thought-provoking novel. It is packed with descriptions of what goes on inside and outside people's heads that will make you smile or gasp with recognition. This book really drags you in with a huge gravitational force towards one fascinating character--but only to a point.
In the past few months the James Bulger case has been in the news again, with the tabloids saying that the boys convicted should not be allowed their anonymity or any kind of life at all. Barker's a welcome voice that does not look for convenient moral 'good and evil' labels, and has no interest in demonising anybody. Our perception of who is a victim is put up to scrutiny.
The only people in Border Crossing who come across as purely destructive are the press.
The Raymond Williams Reader
Ed: John Higgins
This anthology of essays by Raymond Williams, cultural critic, novelist and playwright, spans a lifetime of work. Williams was an acclaimed intellectual and these are scholarly works, but he was first and foremost a superb writer and the book is a great read--accessible and stimulating.
Aimed primarily at new readers, it includes extracts from many of Williams's best known works, such as The Long Revolution, Culture and Society and Marxism and Literature. The essays are in chronological order, the earliest written in 1954 and the last in 1988, the year of Williams's death. The pieces are organised into four parts, each with a detailed introduction placing the writing in its historical context. This both enhances our understanding of the individual essays and helps us trace the theoretical development of Williams's cultural and literary criticism throughout his prolific career.
Raymond Williams's work over four decades reflects a period of rapid change in society--the long postwar boom, full employment and rising living standards in the 1950s and 1960s, the impact of 1968. The changes in society and the increasing popularity of television during these years led many to conclude that social values and culture was in decline. Williams refuted this. To him culture was not something apart from life, the property of the few, but an integral part of everyday life.
In one of the earliest essays, 'Culture is Ordinary', he cuts through the snobbishness associated with the idea of culture and relates it to the lives of ordinary people, in particular his own family. Born into a working class family on the border between Wales and England, he was aware that in the mid-1950s most ordinary people felt that culture had little to do with their lives. Half a century later little has changed for millions of working class people. This essay reclaims culture from the elite and celebrates its occurrence in everyday life.
Williams's critical analysis of modern media is represented here in 'Television and Representation'. Writing in 1974, he places the television broadcast in the context of earlier forms of communication--newspapers, public meetings, billboards or theatre. He concludes that television does not merely report political debate and events, but seeks to shape that debate. He writes, 'This most powerful medium of public presentation is then in large part limited to what is at every level an intended mediation. The shock of vitality, when other conceptions of argument and discussion occasionally break through, is the best evidence of the deadness of the familiar and now orthodox routines of displacement.'
It is particularly fitting that this anthology emphasises the political and historical context in which the essays were written. As a Marxist, Williams denied that we can draw universal truths from literature, and argued that plays and novels spring from the concrete material circumstances of their production. In 'Thomas Hardy and the English Novel' he writes, 'the social forces within his fiction are deeply based in the rural economy itself: in a system of rent and trade; in the hazards of ownership and tenancy; in the differing conditions of labour on good and bad land and in socially different villages; in what happens to people and to families in the interaction between general forces and personal histories--that complex area of ruin or survival, exposure or continuity. This is his actual society, and we cannot suppress it in favour of an external view of a seamless abstracted country way of life.'
This is a book I would highly recommend to both those familiar with Raymond Williams's work and to the first time reader. It reveals Williams to be not only the renowned intellectual, but also a man of immense personal integrity--what one is led to believe is that most unusual of beings, the person who moves increasingly politically leftward with time.
The Third Way and its Critics
Against the Third Way
Anthony Giddens is an academic of international repute who has drawn on a wide range of thinkers--including in the past a serious engagement with the ideas of Karl Marx. He is also one of the leading theorists of the 'Third Way'. In New Labour circles the Third Way is a nebulous and imprecise concept. The intellectual weight comes in no small measure from Giddens who, as a result, has been described as Tony Blair's guru.
According to Giddens the Third Way is not simply an ideological veneer for neoliberalism. It is, he asserts, a 'new progressivism' spearheaded especially through the governments of Clinton's New Democrats and Blair's New Labour. It is an attempt to 'restructure social democratic doctrines to respond to the twin revolutions of globalisation and the knowledge economy'. Third Way principles, he claims, are a mixture of various rights and responsibilities--equal opportunities, personal responsibility, and the mobilisation of citizens and communities. Here he notes the need to halt the decay of family life and 'to be tough where previously they have been tender' on issues like crime. Also, instead of concern with the redistribution of wealth, social democratic governments should promote and embrace wealth creation. Much of this is depressingly familiar--present in the soundbites of New Labour politicians as they seek justification for yet more privatisation.
For many more trenchant critics of the Third Way it is no more than ideological drivel--not worth taking seriously since it is just a veneer for neoliberal policies. This is not the position taken by Alex Callinicos in his recent look at Third Way politics and ideology. Although biting in his critique, Callinicos engages with Third Way ideology seriously in its own terms, which allows him to highlight areas where Third Way politics raise important issues (for example, on the nature of economic and political globalisation)--though dismissing their arguments as at best incomplete and, at worst, simply misplaced.
Callinicos's short book is a goldmine. In the space available he offers analysis of, among other things, economic globalisation, the 'IT revolution' and its role in the recent US boom, the limits (and possibilities) of state action, the 'new world order' and the various 'humanitarian' wars of interventions of recent years, the 'moral agenda' within Third Way politics, and trends towards 'global governance'. In each case he displays an immense grasp of a wide range of sources and presents often complex arguments in an accessible manner.
His conclusion is that the Third Way is an ideological shell for neoliberalism. But, as he points out, noting this also requires recognising that capitalism has changed over the last 30 years, and that 'naked capitalism' is causing immense change to our world.
In the last section Alex finishes with 'nine anti-capitalist theses'. Drawing on his preceding argument, Alex immerses himself in a series of anti-capitalist themes which ends, in essence, by looking at the question of whether the system can be reformed, or has to be overturned by revolution.
In this section Callinicos makes a number of important points. He argues that the enemy is not globalisation per se, but global capitalism. The core institutions of global capitalism are the multinationals, the leading capitalist states and the various international institutions that reflect their interests (like the IMF, the WTO and World Bank). Callinicos is not suggesting that the capitalist states or the international institutions are mere tools of the multinationals, but he points to their role in the arbitration and regulation of capitalism in ways that favour the interests of the already powerful.
He also argues that the relationship between organised labour and other social movements is in the process of being redefined, that alternative models of society will emerge from within the anti-capitalist movement. He ends by looking at the question of reform or revolution--a question at the heart of many debates within the anti-capitalist movement.
Over the coming period socialists need to become more ideological. We need to engage and debate with a range of activists breaking from New Labour and working around the Socialist Alliance. At the same time the growing anti-capitalist movement will bring us into contact with groups and individuals from many traditions appalled at the operation of global capitalism and its social costs. Many of these debates will focus on the reality of neoliberalism and Third Way politics, and the form our alternatives should take. In these debates Callinicos's book should become an essential part of our armour--buy it, read it, use it.